Legalization of Israeli settlements: Trump's new gift to Netanyahu


Donald Trump continues to bend US diplomacy toward the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Quit breaking with decades of international consensus.

This is the last gift given by Donald Trump's administration to the Israeli right. On November 18, US Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo said that the United States no longer considers Israeli settlements in the West Bank to be contrary to international law, while these occupations are considered illegal by the United Nations and part of the international community.

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This is a surprise and yet it is not surprising. Since taking office in January 2017, Trump has continued to show his closeness to Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu and to influence US diplomacy on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. Leaving to break with decades of international consensus, while Washington is a historic player in the peace effort between Palestinians and Israelis.

Promises of annexation

This announcement is an extra boost to an already long list. Receiving Netanyahu in Washington, as of February 15, 2017, Trump says he is no longer committed to a two-state solution, namely the creation of a Palestinian state that coexists with Israel. Before you change your mind On December 6 of the same year, the White House tenant recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel, much to the chagrin of the international community. It accedes to an old claim from the Jewish state, without mentioning the claim of the Palestinians on the sharing of the Holy City, part of which was annexed in 1967, during the Six Day War, won by Israel. This announcement leads, May 14, 2018, the move of the US Embassy in Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, where settles a new ambassador, David Friedman, in favor of colonization. This hawk thus felt that Israel had the "right" to annex "a part" of the occupied West Bank.

On March 25, 2019, in the run-up to the Israeli legislative elections in April, Donald Trump again flouts international law by unilaterally deciding to recognize Israel's sovereignty over the Syrian Golan Heights, a strategic territory annexed in 1981. The On September 10, the outgoing Prime Minister promises, if he wins the new elections, to annex this time all the Jewish settlements in the Jordan Valley, another strategic land that represents 30% of the occupied West Bank. Asked at the time on the subject, Pompeo refuses to say if Washington would oppose a possible annexation.

All Israeli governments, on all sides, have continued the colonization of the Occupied Territories, but that of Netanyahu, in power for more than ten years, has accelerated in recent years. In the West Bank, more than 400,000 Israelis now live in settlement blocks in the middle of Palestinian villages, often in a climate of tension – there are more than 200,000 in East Jerusalem. Not to mention the wild settlements. Two days before the last elections, in September, Netanyahu gave the go-ahead for the legalization of the settlement of Meevot Yericho in the Jordan Valley.

Break with Obama

Mike Pompeo was keen to present the US decision as a return to President Ronald Reagan's interpretation in the early 1980s, breaking Barack Obama's policy, accused by the Israeli and American Zionist right, of having curbed colonization. "The new United States position on the legality of Israeli settlements is part of a wider political conflict of interpretation of international law, which is becoming more central in view of the stalemate in recovery. of diplomatic peace, Ofer Zalzberg, an analyst at the Crisis Group in Jerusalem, points out that for the Trump administration, it is a reaction to President Obama's tacit support for Security Council Resolution 2334, which defined Israeli settlements as a "flagrant violation" of international law and the recent decision of the Court of Justice concerning the illegal labeling of settlement products, it is also likely that this decision is linked to the imminent decision of the International Criminal Court, which is to determine by December 2, if these settlements constitute war crimes under international law. "

Benyamin Netanyahu immediately hailed the position of the United States. It is "the reflection of a historical truth – that the Jews are not foreign colonizers in Judea and Samaria [the Biblical name used by the Israeli right to refer to the West Bank, Ed.The European Union, for its part, has reaffirmed its condemnation of such a policy: "All settlement activity is illegal under international law and undermines the viability of the two-state solution. prospects for a lasting peace, "said the head of European diplomacy, Federica Mogherini.The change of position of the United States on Israeli settlements in the occupied West Bank has no impact on the status of these settlements, which are considered by the United Nations as contrary to international law, confirmed, for its part, the United Nations.

The peace process is moving away more and more

"It is unlikely that this initiative will change much on the ground, but it will accelerate the ongoing processes, decrypts Ofer Zalzberg: Embolden settlers and annexationists while making it virtually impossible for Palestinian, Arab and European governments to consider the United States as an honest broker between Israel and the Palestinians. " In fact, the new unilateral US decision is a little bit further away from the chances of restarting the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis. Developed in secrecy, the peace plan to resolve the conflict, presented during the Trump campaign as the "deal of the century", continues to be postponed.

The timing of Pompeo's statement is interesting. This comes as Trump, campaigning for re-election, must reassure and consolidate the electorate of the evangelical right. Especially if, in Israel, the centrist Benny Gantz, Netanyahu's rival, manages to form a government. This former army chief of staff has until Wednesday, November 20 in the evening to reach a majority of at least 61 members of the Knesset, after the two successive failures of Netanyahu. If Gantz also fails, the assumption of third elections is not to be ruled out. Netanyahu, under the spell of a probable indictment, could then again avail of the many pushes of his friend Trump.


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